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Alejandra Pelinka

Creative Placemaking Director

Bloomington ranks high on list of most arts-vibrant large communities

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WE Mural
WE Mural, curated by Ua Si Creative. Detail of artwork by Reggie LeFlore.

Bloomington, along with its neighbors St. Paul and Minneapolis, has consistently appeared on the SMU DataArts, the National Center for Arts Research, Arts Vibrancy Index since the rankings began in 2015. This year, the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington area is ranked sixth on the annual list of the 20 most arts-vibrant large communities in the nation.

From murals, sculptures and performances, to events, temporary art pop ups and more, the City of Bloomington began its creative placemaking efforts in 2016. Creative placemaking is a process where art plays an intentional, integrated role in place-based community planning and development. It honors the existing assets, history and character of a place, with community engagement as a vital part of the process. Until 2023, Bloomington’s creative placemaking efforts were focused in the South Loop. The efforts are now citywide, as requested by community members in the City’s Bloomington. Tomorrow. Together. strategic plan. 

“The arts have an important role in Bloomington, and have a positive economic, social and cultural impact on the community. Bloomington has many arts and cultural organizations, and artists and culture bearers who contribute to the vibrancy of Bloomington,” Creative Placemaking Director Alejandra Pelinka said. “The Creative Placemaking Commission is pleased to know community members support our work, and we are eager to expand our efforts citywide. We look forward to building partnerships and engaging with more artists and stakeholders.” 

Arts-vibrant communities can be found in every region of the United States—a finding which arises from an objective analysis of the data, and not from selecting communities by hand to achieve geographic representation. 

The overall Arts Vibrancy Index is composed of 13 unique measures which cover aspects of supply, demand, and public support for arts and culture, and are adjusted for cost of living and population differences among 900 communities across the country. In this year’s index, the analysis approach was updated to weight the 13 inputs based on their relative explanatory power for the underlying concept of arts vibrancy.

Related research by SMU DataArts shows that Local Arts Agencies (LAAs) like the City of Bloomington are powerful catalysts of arts vibrancy which ensure that the arts remain an integral part of community life. 


The List

In addition to the top arts-vibrant communities listed in the Arts Vibrancy Index, arts-vibrancy scores for every county in the United States can be viewed on an interactive map that identifies arts and cultural strengths that are present in every community. (Also known as Metropolitan or Micropolitan Statistical Areas, these communities have boundaries that are defined by the United States Census Bureau.) 

Large Communities (population: 1 million +)

On the list of the most arts-vibrant communities with populations of 1 million or more, one city is new to the list: Milwaukee-Waukesha, WI. San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA, sits at the top of the list for the first time since 2018 and Philadelphia, PA, has moved into the top 5 for the first time ever. After debuting in the 20th spot in 2020, Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN, has skyrocketed to the 11th spot.

  1. San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, CA
  2. New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ
  3. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
  4. Boston, MA
  5. Philadelphia, PA
  6. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI
  7. Frederick-Gaithersburg-Rockville, MD
  8. Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN
  9. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, CA
  10. New Orleans-Metairie, LA
  11. Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN
  12. Cleveland-Elyria, OH
  13. Cambridge-Newton-Framingham, MA
  14. Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO
  15. Pittsburgh, PA
  16. Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA
  17. Seattle-Bellevue-Kent, WA
  18. Milwaukee-Waukesha, WI
  19. Chicago-Naperville-Evanston, IL
  20. St. Louis, MO-IL

About SMU DataArts

SMU DataArts, the National Center for Arts Research, is a project of the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University. The mission of SMU DataArts is to provide and engage both organizations and individuals with the evidence-based insights needed to collectively build strong, vibrant, and equitable arts communities. Its research efforts range from academic papers published in leading journals, applied research undertaken with community partners, and actionable insights shared directly with arts practitioners. Its programs provide business intelligence tools and resources to help arts leaders leverage data to answer critical management questions and connect research analyses to their own work. Recent publications include research reports on emergence from the COVID-19 crisisthe alchemy that drives high performing arts organizations of coloraudience diversity, equity and inclusion in large performing arts organizationsimpact of investments made in diverse creative communities; and more.